This list is is only the beginning…
1. Better hair, better skin, better nails: Let’s be honest: our society largely determines a person’s worth by their appearance. For the sake of vanity, let’s talk superficial for a moment. My nails are stronger and grow faster. My hair has more life in it – actual life – my curls are bouncier. It’s also growing faster than ever and is shiny and soft. My acne is about 40% better than it was when I was drinking and my skin is half as dry.
2. Better sleep: The most beautiful thing and one of my favorite parts of every day now is getting into bed at night. Every night I crawl under the covers and in a matter of minutes, I am out cold. Drinking Katie would be thrilled for bed each day too, but only in the sense that things stopped and she didn’t have to be alive for a few hours. Now, I not only sleep heavily and wake up feeling rested, but I no longer wake up at 2am needing to vomit, take an acid reducer or Pepto, feeling foggy, with a headache, sore, with mystery bruises, with my make-up on, without having brushed my teeth, or finding myself fully dressed. The apartment doesn’t smell like we drunkenly smoked cigarettes and there are no beer bottles, no take-out, no mess to clean up. I get a solid eight hours of peaceful, restful, rejuvenating sleep Every Single Night. My body thanks me daily for treating it better.
3. Better digestion (seriously): My digestive system was a disaster without reprieve when I was drinking. I took Pepto almost daily, had acid reflux, indigestion, stomach cramps, and unpleasant bathroom experiences (to put it delicately) every day. I would run to the bathroom throughout the day because my body was constantly trying to fix all the shit I’d put into it. I bled. I was always embarrassed. For the first time in my adult life, I poop like a normal person. Oh, and I haven’t thrown up ages. It’s kind of incredible how the tone of your day can be determined by your morning bathroom experience. This makes sense since I’m no longer putting a poison/toxin/drug into my body.
4. More money to spend or (*shock*) save: Beef once calculated that we spent an average of $48.00 per day on alcohol. That’s $1440 per month. That’s a mortgage payment. We’re now saving more and have far less guilt about buying ourselves things that we want and deserve, like a laptop, a new bed, a recovery workshop. We no longer live paycheck to paycheck and our stress levels about money have been greatly (GREATLY) reduced. We are now saving for a dog while our down payment on a house fund grows slowly, steadily, and without interruption. We can handle an unexpected bill without being completely defeated or derailed.
5. Freedom: The amount of time I spent thinking about alcohol was disturbing. If something set me off and I knew I’d leave work and immediately start drinking, it was all I’d think about until that first bottle was in my hand. If I was stressed and couldn’t drink, I would exhaust myself, that little Pac-Man ghost that is alcohol chasing me down. What about alcohol in social settings? Get Ready: First thing’s first, is this event one in which I can imbibe? Who will be attending, people who don’t monitor my drinking or people who will judge me? Who should I stay away from at this party? How much alcohol should I bring? Enough for me, Beef, and I guess something for the host. I hope no one thinks I’m going to be sharing. Booze is so expensive. I’m going to need a pre-game since my tolerance is so much higher than everyone else’s. Ugh I’m so hungover, I’m going to need a Redbull to bring me back to life, then I can start drinking. And then, once at the event: How soon until I can take another sip? How’s my pace, how’s her pace, his pace? Has anyone noticed I’ve had four beers to their one? Ok, that’s her second drink, so I can reach for another now. Ugh I drank that in three sips. How many drinks do I have left? When will I start to feel any kind of fucking relief? How can I make this drink without anyone noticing I used double the vodka? Can I take another sip, I feel like I just took one. Is anyone else drunk? Am I slurring my words? How’s my balance? Oh god, look at all my empties. How much is this tab going to be? Did that bartender just judge my intake? Asshole. Is that guy a cop? How am I almost out of beers? Is anyone else drunk? Who in this room is going to give me shit about driving home? … What happened? I don’t remember that.
The first time I was social in sobriety was shocking because I realized how much of my time and attention was dedicated to alcohol. I still counted everyone’s drinks out of habit, but that fades with time. I also came to realize that other people aren’t paying nearly as much attention to it and are able to actually be in a room when they’re in it. What?!
NOW: I look forward to seeing people, I look forward to the food, if there will be music, what we’ll talk about. I look forward to seeing the dogs, for getting closer with the people in my life. I look forward to being present, to trying whatever seltzer flavor is available. Here’s a kicker: I have THINGS TO SAY because I’m actually PAYING ATTENTION. I have no motive to get out of a situation in which I can’t drink the way I want. I don’t have to worry if I’ll have to make a run to the liquor store or ration my intake. I learn about the people around me and I learn about myself. I am intentional and present in relationships, in society, in the world.
6. More calories for food: The year before I quit drinking, I decided to lose some weight. I was sixty pounds heavier than my normal weight (in part because I’d switched almost exclusively to beer). I got in the habit of eating almost nothing during the day and then working out because I’d need to have at least 3000 calories to blow on “dinner” – 100 ounces of Blue Moon equals 1425 calories. Plus chicken wings: 600 calories. Well fuck it, I suck. Half a pizza: 1000 calories. Potato chips: 300 calories. I’d get drunk faster because I hadn’t eaten, then I’d binge eat, then I’d feel sick, then I’d cry about being a failure. The next day I’d eat healthy (fruits & veggies, macros, calorie logging) and hope for a miracle. This went on for about 8 months until I quit because I knew I wouldn’t achieve my goals if alcohol was in the picture. It was impossible (Note: I just wrote that I chose to quit exercising and eating healthy over quitting drinking because drinking was THAT important to me). Now I can eat like a monster all day and not feel so bad because there’s nothing I am obligated to save room for when the day is done. Plus, if I can overcome being perpetually intoxicated, I’m allowed to have all the buttered bread I can dream of. When I look at all of the work I am doing to become a better person, to learn, read, write, seek recovery, it really doesn’t matter right this second if I’m big or medium or small.
7. More time for hobbies: In my drinking life, my hobby was drinking. I used to get depressed and anxious about social situations because I “had nothing to say,” which makes perfect sense because my only interests were complaining about my life and drinking. There was no room for anything else. Now, I leisurely sip my coffee in the morning, I journal and attempt to write blog posts, I read. I go for long walks outside by myself, I listen to podcasts, I find new music I want to listen to. I talk to my mother more, I water the succulents in my living room, I try new things like yoga and I take better care of myself. I focus on my energy on what other people are saying in social situations and try to listen, to participate, to care. I found a new job and made a career change. I talk about life, self, community, my goals. I am learning, absorbing, and creating. In no longer having to give my entire focus to alcohol, I am able to cultivate a life. In my drinking life, I was almost completely closed-in. In my dry life, I am wide open.
8. There’s no ticking time bomb: Towards the end, I knew it was only a matter of time. I’d gotten to the point with drinking that I knew something Bad was looming. The next step down the path I was on was a thing with “real” consequences – a DUI maybe, or a drunken night in front of people who’d notice. Living paycheck to paycheck could only last so long, and we could barely afford our small life as it was. Depression loomed, isolation was constant, losing everything was a wave about to break. I cried over and over again about all of the things I wanted that felt so far away – a house, a wedding, a dog. No matter “how hard I tried” I wasn’t going anywhere. Dead end job, unhappy life, uninteresting existence. There was a reaper in the corner of every bar just waiting for the right moment, and I knew it. I tipped my hat to him. I knew that it was only a matter of time before something so big and bad would happen that everyone would finally know how bad it had gotten, would see that I was worthless, that I was the bad person I already knew I was. It was only a matter of time before I’d be completely submerged and I’d end up drowning. In sobriety, that has vanished. I have no shame in my game and no fucking guilt about my decisions. I live honestly and openly and I have no secret I am keeping that could destroy my life and deeply hurt the lives of my loved ones. There is nothing holding me back, and in fact I’m pushing forward. I never have to be that person again. I never have to feel how she felt ever again. I am free.
9. I’m getting to know myself: Apparently, I am strong. Apparently, I am funny and kind and intelligent. Apparently, I put my head down when things get difficult and I try to keep barreling forward. I distract myself, I overthink, I undervalue my abilities. I am impatient. I try to fix things, I have strong opinions and I am very sensitive. I am spiritual. I do not like to dwell in pain or in fear and so I often do not let myself. I like to be alone and I miss having genuine friendships. I am untrusting. I get angry and I don’t like to cry, but I must. These are all things I am learning about myself in sobriety. In quitting drinking, I made the choice to conquer something I never thought I’d conquer or want to conquer. In quitting drinking, I took control of my life and for the first time, faced myself. Getting sober was the impossible and unpopular decision that made me do the very thing I’d been running away from for so long. Who is this person, why does she do the things she does, feel the way she feels? For the first time, I am finding out. And I’m kind of amazing.
10. You find real, genuine relationships: I struggle with this one, but I can feel it brewing all the time. I have always had trouble with friendships. I have never fit in anywhere. I have had friendships of convenience and drinking buddies my whole adult life, and many of those people faded away without incident in my sobriety. Those friendships that are true are growing now more than ever. While the sober people are few and far between, I see them more and more thanks to the internet. I see that they are strong and imperfectly perfect just like me, and we are in this fucking thing together. They are human and honest and true no matter how ugly their stories might be. The women in this community are fucking unicorns, every last one of them. I appreciate everyone more now, even those that drink (I have nothing against people who drink and want to that to be clear). The point is, I am present for relationships, I am actively making choices and I am intentional and true to who I want and do not want in my life. Getting to know others allows me to get to know them AND myself. In regards to the people I am closest to (my family, my Beef), I must say that these relationships are also improving. Beef and I quit drinking together, and I have never been more interested in or proud of everything I’m learning about who he is and watching his success in sobriety. Having that perspective at home, having a partner in sobriety, makes me extremely lucky. I feel privileged to have this man by my side as it is, and knowing and loving him on this side of life makes my heart feel like it could explode.
11. The world opens up: Seriously, I have so much fucking work to do. I have to start doing yoga and I need to go for longer walks. I have millions of books to read and women to meet and retreats to attend. There are so many words to write. I need to go on a road trip and a vacation and I need to start a dog sanctuary. I want to try rock-climbing and maybe I want to do a tough mudder. I want to go big and be heard and leave a mark. I want to travel and I want a massage and I want to live. I can do whatever I want now because I’m the one running the show. I am in charge of this life and it is whatever I make it.
12. You feel like you’ve got hold of the best-kept secret in the world. It’s true. You can’t see it until you’re on the other side. It’s really that simple.
13. No shame, no guilt: I am true. I own my actions and my feelings and I don’t say things I don’t remember or agonize over how I may have acted or what I might have said. I am cognizant and responsible for who I put into the world.
14. Drinking: I never have to drink again.
Have a beautiful day, xo.